Is cooking a trade or an art? There is, of course, no right answer. I am not the cooking half of this enterprise and I often find myself on the art side of this debate. Like the millions of folks watching Food Network, buying foodie magazines, and filling their shelves with cookbooks I am in awe of every chefs creativity. With 10 years at Early Girl, (and many more years before EG in the food world) I know that kitchen labor takes up much more of a cook’s time than recipe creation.
Anyone can learn to chop an onion, but you can’t teach masterful mixing of flavors. Great cooks just know what ingredients make magic when used together. They think about what would work well together all of the time.
Recently, through the media, the restaurant world has been portrayed as quite glamorous. Restaurant work (cooking, serving, bussing, hosting & dish washing) is physically and mentally hard work. If you haven’t worked in a restaurant, you should give it a try. You will be a bigger tipper after one day, I promise you! It’s not for everyone. Neither is working with the public. There are tough days… but the positive, exuberant people that come in are lovely and typically show their appreciation through their tips & kind words.
Your day gets made and rewarded through affirmation from the comments we get like “This is the best sausage I have ever had in my life.” This type of feedback is rewarding and makes it all worth it.
A lot of hard work goes into the sausage. The kitchen cooks up the sausage, the farmer raises the pig and the wait staff delivers the sausage, with a smile, to your table. The customers CHOOSE to spend their hard earned money with us. They are all good folks and none of the art or the trade could be enjoyed without them.
So, to answer the question, is cooking an art or a trade? I say it’s a little bit of both, and you can’t have a good restaurant without both art, and hard work!